Most everyone was eagerly awaiting Kris Bryant's first at-bat on Friday, but his first Major League experience turned out to be in the field, and the Cubs third baseman did not disappoint.
Bryant, the game's No. 2 prospect as ranked by MLB.com, started a 5-4-3 double play in the top of the first, doubling up Derek Norris with Padres leadoff hitter Wil Myers on first base.
The standout fielding continued in the top of the fifth, as Bryant made a diving catch to his right on a line drive near the line hit by Norris, ending the inning. One batter earlier, Bryant barehanded a bunt by Myers and made the throw to the first, but it was late and Myers reached.
Bryant displayed his rocket arm in recording the first out of the seventh, fielding a high Will Middlebrooks chopper that pulled him into foul territory and throwing to first to easily get the Padres' third baseman.
Bryant's first at-bat, against James Shields, did not go as well. He swung and missed on a cutter and two changeups, the last of which was out of the strike zone, with two out. Anthony Rizzo had walked to get up Bryant, batting cleanup, to the plate. The Cubs highly regarded prospect, promoted from Triple-A Iowa, stepped to the plate in front of a crowd of standing fans.
Bryant, who spent some pregame time signing autographs for fans, struck out again in his second at-bat, swinging and missing another low changeup from Shields on a full count in the fourth inning. He did the same in the fifth, chasing a similar pitch.
In the seventh, with runners on first and second and the Cubs trailing by a run, Bryant grounded sharply into a forceout at third, ending the frame.
Bryant has a history of struggling initially when reaching a new level -- and adjusting quickly. Making his professional debut for the AZL Cubs of the Arizona League on July 21, 2013, Bryant went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and three errors (two throwing, one fielding). Two days later, in his debut for the Class A Short Season Boise Hawks, Bryant went 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. Bryant ultimately hit .354 with four homers and a .692 slugging percentage in 18 games with the Hawks.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein earlier remembered that Bryant's first at-bat for Class A Boise in 2013 also resulted in a strikeout. In fact, he struck out five times in that game.
"We had to remind ourselves not to overreact to that, too," Epstein said. "Sure enough, in a couple weeks he was dominating and moving up the ladder."
Why have Bryant bat fourth in his big league debut?
"I just thought the names read better that way," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
When Bryant met with Maddon prior to the game, the manager explained his reasoning.
"I said, 'I could've hit you anywhere, but I put you in the fourth spot and I know it's not going to bother you and beyond that, my expectations are respect 90 feet and enjoy yourself,'" Maddon said.